At a meeting of ISO-New England’s Consumer Liaison Group last week, officials again warned of the risks associated with the region’s over-reliance on natural gas. This most recent warning, however, was considerably more serious than ISO-NE leadership has shared previously.
In a Sunday news story, Vamsi Chadalavada, ISO-NE Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, told Dave Solomon of the New Hampshire Union Leader that ISO had come close to imposing blackouts due to constraints on the supply of natural gas that fuels most the region’s power plants.
“If we had lost one more big generator or a transmission line, we would have had to resort to our emergency procedures,” said Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Independent System Operator of the New England power grid (ISO-NE), based in Holyoke, Mass. “Those procedures are to call on help from neighboring areas, then to call for voluntary conservation, and if that’s not sufficient, to institute controlled power outages … We came quite close.”
In another Sunday news story, Nashua Telegraph writer David Brooks reported similar comments from New Hampshire Public Utilities Commissioner Michael Harrington, who stated, “This was a normal January and February, yet we came very close to having rolling blackouts. What happens if we have a very cold winter? We could be in trouble.”
While this issue of New England’s over-reliance on natural gas has been making news since last summer, it’s clear the close call the region experienced this winter is bringing this issue into greater focus.
Diversifying the region’s energy portfolio must be a major component of any solution to address this issue, as well as considering New England’s pipeline capacity. Northern Pass will not only bring diversity to the region’s energy portfolio, but will also drive down energy costs while creating jobs and millions in new tax revenues in New Hampshire. Given the short term risks to the grid that are now becoming apparent, the ability for Northern Pass be in operation as soon as late 2016 to mid-2017 provides further value to New England.
It is interesting to consider this recent news and the prospect of blackouts in New England at a time when some continue to claim Northern Pass is not needed. The facts tell a different story. More than ever, we need new sources of clean, low cost power to diversify our power supply and secure our energy future. Simply put, energy diversity equals energy security. Northern Pass will help provide that diversity to our energy portfolio while creating new jobs and tax revenue for New Hampshire – all at no cost to customers.